Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review: "The Girl who Died"/"The Woman who Lived"

I have to say, I'm liking the fact they're doing two-part episodes these days.

So, spoilers. Blah-blah.

Still there?

You were warned.

"The Girl who Died" - set in Viking times (only with horned helmets... so no authenticity, but we're talking "Doctor Who", so moving on), the Doctor and Clara arrive and are grabbed by viking raiders who take them back to their village. The best thing about the scene is the vikings destroying the sonic sunglasses (which are not permanently destroyed, alas). The Doctor attempts a bluff by claiming he's Odin and gets trumped by an image of Odin in the skies. He spies a girl (Maisie Williams) who gets his fascination. She is named Ashilda and is unusually clever (and mouthy) for a viking girl.

A bunch of alien soldiers materialize, grab all the warriors in the village, and then grab Ashilda and Clara when Clara uses the broken sonic sunglasses to try to free herself from viking chains.

Ashilda and Clara discover that the aliens zap the warriors to turn them into a sort of testosterone milkshake for the alien masquerading as Odin. Clara tries to bluff freedom for the two of them, but Ashilda winds up challenging the warriors to a duel the next day.

They're returned and Clara tries to convince the Doctor to help. The Doctor intends to abandon the village as the fight is hopeless, but Ashilda and Clara convince him to stay.

The Doctor starts to train the remaining villagers (none of whom are warriors), then comes up with a clever plan to fool the invaders.

Cue fancy hand-waving, culminating in stealing an alien warrior helmet to Ashilda can dream up an illusion to scare off the aliens.

The plan works but Ashilda's heart gives out working the alien helmet and she dies.

The Doctor has one of his melodramatic moments and then uses some alien med tech to bring Ashilda back from the dead. And it makes her immortal. Before he takes off, he leaves another alien immortality chip thing so Ashilda can make an immortal companion if she wants.

To be continued...

"The Woman Who Lived" - Ashilda has now been alive for 800 years and it's the 1600's. She's disguised as a robber known as the Knightmare. The Doctor arrives (sans Clara) hunting alien tech. He stumbles across Ashilda's path and finds out she now calls herself "Me" and can't remember most of her past. She's now cooperating with an alien cat man (seriously, don't ask) to get an amulet that will get him home.

The majority of the episode is Ashilda (aka "Lady Me") and the Doctor talking about the impact of immortality on her and how it's made her numb to humanity.

She wants to travel with him and he's reluctant (why? I don't know. I mean, he traveled with Susan, Romana, Captain Jack, and K-9, all of whom don't have short lifespans, but except for a brief reference to Captain Jack, that point is glossed over).

Turns out she's working with alien cat man 'cause he promised to take her off-world if they get the amulet that can use a person's death to open a portal to his world or something.

Ashilda is ready to kill her manservant but the Doctor pleads for her to remember her humanity. Then some soldiers come to tell Ashilda that they captured a highwayman rival of hers - some guy who tried to rob her earlier and lost - and they plan to hang him. She decides to use his death by hanging to open the portal and leaves the Doctor trapped.

The Doctor finagles an escape and follows. The highwayman is doing stand-up gallows comedy (with truly awful puns that I have to applaud and curse by turns). Everyone arrives, the Doctor gets the people to free the highwayman but Ashilda uses the alien amulet thing to kill the highwayman and open the portal.

So turns out the cat man lied and aliens start blasting through the hole in space. Ashilda and the Doctor use the remaining immortality chip to revive the highwayman, sealing the portal. The cat man is killed.

The Doctor is unsure if the highwayman is immortal, thinking the portal may have drained that energy, but Ashilda is still stuck. She now knows the Doctor won't take her with him because their perspectives are too much alike and it makes them lack empathy. That's why the Doctor has companions, to give him perspective for empathy.

Ashilda reveals she knows of the Doctor by stories and that he has a reputation for cutting off and leaving messes behind. She decides her purpose will be to clean up the aftermath of the Doctor's adventures on Earth.

The Doctor is rocking out in the TARDIS with his electric guitar when Clara returns. She tells the Doctor about some student who took a selfie as a gift to the Doctor for some reason. The Doctor looks at the picture and sees Ashilda in the background, looking at the student and Clara.

All-in-all, I'd have to say these eps were the best of the season thus far. I really liked "The Girl Who Died" and Maisie Williams really carried the episode. If she weren't on as Arya Stark, I'd dig seeing her as a Clara-replacement. The story had an old-style feel with proper villains and good, proper trickery mixed with drama.

I was less-fond of "The Woman Who Lived". Ashilda now is another Mary Sue like River Song, which would be annoying if it weren't Maisie Williams. Still, there was a lot more exposition and navel-gazing than I'd like in the ep and it didn't particularly impress me. Plus the damn sonic sunglasses are back. Oh well.

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